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January 2002 issue of
World Press Review
(VOL. 49, No. 1)
He is sometimes
called the youngest classical writer of the Czech literary world,
but make no mistake, novelist and poet Jachym Topol, 39, is
While his award-winning novel Sestra (City Sister Silver,
1994) shows influences of Dantes Inferno and Meyrinks
The Golem, it also speaks the Russian and Czech slang
of the streets, achieving the effect of raving, raw post-Babylonianin
the words of his protagonist, Potokprophecy.
Topol, the son of Josef Topol, a renowned playwright, began
writing in the literary ghetto of the samizdatunderground
literature published unofficially during the communist period.
Topol knew at that time that none of the state publishing houses
would print his work, which dealt with the difficulty of living
under communism, so he didnt even bother trying. Instead,
he became an activist. At 24, he signed his name to Charter
77, the declaration written in 1977 that called on the government
to respect human rights. He was jailed numerous times for his
Since the Velvet Revolution of 1989, however, Topol has had
no trouble getting his work published. His first formal publications
came out in the early 1990s; they were two volumes of poetryMiluji
te k zblazneni (I Love You Madly) and V utery bude valka
(The War Will Be on Tuesday).
But it wasnt until Topol started writing prose that he
was launched into the limelight. Literary critics praised his
novel Sestra as an artistic but merciless view from within,
which captured the social dislocation that characterized the
velvet hangover after 1989.
Topol is wary of the praise. He says he is not fulfilled by
being the most successful Czech writer. When asked about life
and writing after communism by Pragues Transitions
Online, he said, I love freedom. It was terrible to
battle with the communist beast...but I still regret a bit that
[the feeling of] the prince killing the evil dragon has gone